By Jamie Crockett
MONTEVERDE, Costa Rica — The smallest gesture can make a lasting impact. Standing on the patio of the Monteverde Institute, I immediately noticed how community members greeted each other with a smile and warm embrace. The crowd gathered to celebrate the publication of the Spanish edition of Monteverde, and I thought I could briefly be a fly on the wall. That is, until Maricella Solis found me.
Without hesitation, she kissed me on my cheek and welcomed me with a hug. This act of kindness moved me so much, I felt paralyzed with astonishment. Maricella and I had never met. She greeted others with just as much affection, and I walked away feeling as if I was a cherished community member. I often hear of the unmatched hospitality around the world, but after experiencing it, I was utterly enthralled.
Maricella later said respeto y solidaridad, or respect and solidarity, are common values found in many Latin American communities. Kindness is simply a way of life. Community members may feel overwhelmed by several events, but one thing is for sure: they are never alone.
I don’t believe I can ever fully express how much she changed my life in just one moment. I won’t be able to pay her back; she would refuse it anyway. However, I will pay it forward.